08-06-2013 02:35 PM
Rather than paying to go into a studio and record, I was thinking to just do it myself (cheap). Not like an entire studio, but just like a mixing board, some mics, etc. I already have a powerful computer. If I was to do this, what would I need? I know I could do it with just a usb mixer and some mics, but is there anything else that I should look into?
08-06-2013 06:25 PM
08-07-2013 03:51 AM
Since you're new, the first thing You need is information on making decisions. Forums like this are good but ultimately, You are the decision maker when making purchases. The first place I suggest You visit is this.
Read every category on the left so You have some clue to what You plan on purchasing.
After that You have to Get specific on what You need to purchase. The 4 big purchase items are the Monitors, The interface, The Mics, The Computer, and the DAW program.
As You notice I didn't mention a mixer there because Its not needed. Back in the analog days, a mixer was an integral part of a studio. Now they are simply eye candy for your clients, not a necessary piece of gear like your older analog studios where everything that was routed to and from the multitrack Reel to Reel.
The DAW program "is" your virtual mixer and having a hardware version is simply a redundant device. The only time You might would need one is if You don't have enough interface channels and want to sub mix several mics or You purchased an interface with no built in mic preamps. Even then expanding your interface for more mic channels is a much better solution because more channels means You can have all your instruments recorded on separate tracks. All a mixer will do is put multiple instruments on the same track which makes mixing the individual parts nearly impossible.
Since most interfaces have built in mic preamps, and since all your mixing is done in the computer and sent straight to the monitors, I suggest You skip using a mixer all together. If your studio grows, then buying a Digital Mixer/Recorder is a better way to go now then buying some old piece of junk mixing board with scratchy pots designed for live sound.
Unless the mixer is a very high quality and has high quality noise free preamps, all the Sends, Busses Subgroups needed to connect to a recording interface, Its not going to be of much use recording or mixing.
In fact if You think You really want one, I have 8 of them I've collected over the years. I ran an analog studio before going digital and since my profession is an electronic tech I used to buy used gear and restore it, Right now they are all in my storage room. Other than my live mixing board, I have no need for them since going digital in the mid 90's.
The key is this. When You used analog a mixer was essential part of recording. You would EQ the mic frequencies prior to hitting the tape and saturated the tape with tuned frequencies from the mic to Get specific saturation when You pushed the sound onto the tape. The tape had limited dynamic characteristics and it was essential You EQ the mics so You wouldn't have to deal with the tapes hiss and Get juicy tracks recorded.
None of this exists with digital. There is no saturation and if You do record above 0db You Get the nastiest clipping You ever heard, like a blown speaker or bad cable. Everything in digital is/ should be tracked below saturation. And since digital offers such a wide dynamic range between the lowest level (noise floor) and maximum, You can track a mic with Its full frequency response and EQ afterwards mixing. All You do by placing any analog in the path between the mic and interface preamp is bottleneck what the mic is capturing.
This is not to say You can't use analog gear to pre eq or color what the mic is capturing. When doing solo or adding instruments multitracking, I often choose to run my instruments through analog boxes to Get specific sounds. It saves me all kinds of time mixing later. I use several different guitar preamp/effects units tracking and can Get great live tones that would take me much longer to obtain using a miced guitar amp. Bass guitar is another item that can benefit by using an amp modeling preamp for recording direct. I have several that have tone and cab settings and I can dial up anything from an SVT cab to a small 10" practice amp and Get very convincing bass tracks without all the hassle of having a miced bass cab and dealing with room resonance and bleedover from other instruments when I track a band.
You will learn all these tricks as You go along.
You can cheapen up on the DAW program, Get one bundled with the interface or even Get a free one and it wont influence the sound quality tracking. All a DAW program does Tracking is direct the digital info from the Interface to the hard drive. It doesn't change the data like an analog mixer does. Where different DAW programs shine is mixing when the stored digital information is played back. Even then it often comes down to the plugin package that comes with the DAW and how easy it is to manipulate the tracks. In the beginning using a simple DAW may be better until You learn more advanced mixing techniques and need what more expensive DAW's have to offer.
Besides the basic effects plugins a daw has, there are thousands of free plugins You can download, and thousands of very good ones You can purchase at low cost. After awhile You try out these plugins and build your own effects toolbox for mixing. In my case I use about 50% free plugins and 50% purchased and even some of those came with the DAW program.
For other items You can cheapen up to save money on your big purchase items. Things like headphones are really only needed for tracking vocals, or in loud music situations where You want to hear through the mic. Dialing up the sound of a miced amp, or a drummer who wants to multitrack to a recording are good examples. Most headphones don't have a flat response, and none will allow You to properly mix because of their lack of space between the ears and sound source. This robs You of being able to properly judge the three dimensionality of the music and are therefore not a substitute for nearfield studio monitors.
Headphones will allow You isolation tracking and adjust the stereo spread, but You can only guess at the proper depth and frequency response using them. I used them for years when I had small kids and noise was a factor. I did hundreds of recordings that way and maybe one out of 50 and got a decent mix, purely by luck. Through the headphones it sounded great but playing back on speakers it sounded awful.
As a musician your instrument is your source of good sound quality. In recording Its your monitors.
The interface comes down to how many "Channels" You can simultaneously record. If You have a 2 channel, You basically record two tracks as once. Get a 4 channel, You can record 4 tracks at once, Get 8 channels You can record 8 channels at once, etc.
Multitracking is different. In analog You had channel and track limitations. Once You filled all the tracks, then You had to start blending two tracks together to free up another track and once You erased the original track it was gone. (unless You backed up the solo track)
In digital those physical limitations don't exist. You can use a two channel interface and record 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 etc to Build a multitrack recording up till You have as many tracks as the musical arrangement requires or your computer bogs down from the CPU load of all the plugins running on those tracks. Also you'll find what does bog down a computer are the High CPU consumption plugins, not the number of tracks You recorded. I used old single processor computers with 1/2 Gig or less processors speeds and was easily able to record 32 tracks. It sucked for mixing down though. I'd often have to wait 15 minutes on a big project to mix the tracks down to a stereo master.
The other item to look at is the number of built in preamps the interface has. Many boast 8 channels, but only have two mic preamps. That doesn't do much good micing a band when You have to have 6 additional external mic preamps to Get the mics boosted up to line level. Even then You can buy an 8 channel mic preamp fairly cheap (or use a mixers preamps) In my case I use M-Audio 1010LT PCI interfaces. Since I was running analog prior to going digital I already has all the patch bays and preamps to run a line level interface so it was a good choice in my case.
If I had to start from scratch I'd definitely go for a multichannel interface that has built in preamps for all the channels. A pair of 8 channels or one 16 channel would be all I'd ever need to track a band. Everything else can be dubbed in after the initial tracks were recorded. The other thing a multichannel interface offers is You don't have to constantly swap cables for everything You track. I have everything connected up in my studio to record a live band through a patch bay connected directly to the computer interface. If I want to multitrack, I simply plug a mic into the patch bay and it bypasses the mics normally connected to the computer. I can leave a drumset miced up with the mics carefully positions and use those channels by bypassing them through the patch bay.
Sorry I got on a roll here. Much of this doesn't apply to someone just starting out. I just wanted to be made aware of how specific needs dictate specific solutions. And You don't even know what those needs are till You Get involved doing it yourself. There are many paths You can take to Get going and expand once You do. Making wise choices now when You are beginning will help You avoid purchasing a bunch of crap that is either obsolete now or will be in a few years when You do begin to expand.
So take the time and Read up on what your purchase. Don't be over anxious to make that big purchase and even when You do decide to spring for that piece of gear or software, stop and investigate it. Read the manuals, the forums of the manufacturer, the good "and" the bad reviews so You know what you'll be dealing with. 9 times out of 10 buying gear on impulse leads to disappointment. Once the magic wears off and You find Its limitations, or that half price sale or EBay deal You kick yourself in the butt for not having looked around a little more, or reading that review on Its flaws.
Other than that have fun. Building a Recording setup and using it is a wonderful adventure. As Whitesol mentioned it takes patience. You can Get some results in short order but You have to realize it may be years if not decades before You Get professional results that are of commercial quality. You have to realize there are professionals out there who have spent a lifetime making this their trade and their art form. If you're first goal is to be a musician, You must realize recording requires just as much effort to learn as it does to play an instrument from scratch.
Any amature can pick up a guitar, plug it in and make noise. It takes talent gained through study and practice to become a great artist. The exact thing holds true for recording. You have to invest just as much time to perfect it. You have to train your ears, learn the gear, the techniques just like You would playing and instrument and if You want immediate results, forget it, Its not going to happen. You might be better off hiring pros to record You and Get next day results. But even with minimal time invested recording will Get results and those results will be satisfying. Its a direct reflection of your abilities as a musician. Its a truth detector and your skills as a musician are going to be blatantly obvious once You begin. Your musical skills are going to improve because your influence over the recording by just playing well is an integral part of getting a good recording. Its also a method of communicating with other musicians. Its allot easier to play a song for someone to learn than it is to write it down or tell them verbally. It documents what You play so You can judge your improvements, You can write musical compositions and refine your skills playing to the tracks over and over, so even if You don't Get pro results, the benefits of learning to record have so many good aspects, it becomes hard to have a reason not to utilize recording on a daily basis.
08-07-2013 11:29 AM
08-07-2013 03:25 PM
go right in usb or firewire.
it's pretty amazing what you can do with modest quipment these days. But, as in anything like this, the gear never makes something good. It's a learning experience for sure, fun though. Find someone really good at tracking and mixing to help. ask a zillion questions. Don't read too many forums, you can easily get confused or start thinking you need this or that to do something well.
08-08-2013 02:38 AM
Thanks for all the info, and I know that it's possible plug in a mixer/audio interface to the line in on my soundcard, but will that sound good? If I go with an audio interface, should I make sure it has usb, or would plugging it into my line in sound good?
Those answers will be answered when you read that site I posted. As a quick answer. You can record CD quality 16/44.1 through a line in of a windows sound card. This is usually good enough for connecting a turntable or cassette player to your computer and transferring songs to a digital format. back when CD burners first came out I used to transfer my analog studio recordings to the computer that way to make CD's of my mixdowns and used Cool Edit to master them.
If you want to multitrack on a computer through a windows sound card, forget it. First the card isn't recognized by the DAW programs, and the card uses windows drivers. Professional interfaces use ASIO or similar type drivers which are really fast low latency drivers. If you were to use windows drivers and played back tracks previously recorded and tried to add additional tracks the delay would be so bad, the new tracks would be shifted over and not aligned with the old.
There is a driver some use called ASIO4ALL which makes a consumer windows card be seen by the DAW program. I messed with it a bit on my home computers windows card running win7. Its awful. The audio quality running a DAW program like Sonar is awful. Its glitchy as all get out and the music data flow shudders all over the place. It may be the Realtec sound card that's in that computer, but I wouldn't even consider using it recording or mixing.
Besides you don't have to spend a mint to get going on a personal rig. You can buy a stereo USB Interface Like the Lexicon Alpha with Cubase LE bundled in for $59. That's ridiculously low when you consider it costs that much to fill your cars tank with gas.
The sample rate and depth is higher on a professional interface. You are able to record up to 24/96 on many of them vs. 16/44.1 Of course this makes for much larger files so drive space can be a big issue. Most use a second separate drive in their computer just for recording wave files. I don't see much audible advantages for recording at high sample rates with my setup. I found 24/48 to do the job very well plus it takes less time mixing down to a stereo file for CD burning or moving a project to a new computer.
An MP3 may only be 5K in size, a wave file at CD quality 16/44.1 may be 50 megs (A CD will hold maybe 14 average songs of 50M each) changing the sample rate to 24/44.1 may only add another 10 megs to a song. Changing the sampling to say 24/88, 24/96 or 24/196 and you're talking about some major gigabytes for a single song. Getting that amount of data to stream from the drive through your computer buss, CPU DAW program and sound card requires some major horsepower. The benefits of such high sample rates are so ridiculously small only the highest quality studios using the finest gear would even be able to take advantage of it.
Like a guitar rig that consists of an instrument, wires, pedals, amp, speakers, Mic interface, the signal passes from the player through a chain of electronic devices. One weak device in the chain and you have a bottleneck, A traffic jam and the sound quality gets ruined. This may be intentional for a guitar in the case of obtaining Lo Fi sound quality. But a guitar is a midrange instrument. it doesnt produce bass notes or drum sounds. Other instruments do that in a mix and those instruments need the rest of the frequency spectrum to fill in what our ears are used to hearing.
In a Recording Chain, a bottleneck is not acceptable. You get a bottleneck in a recording chain and that sound quality loss is a limiting factor for everything else in the chain. You may have a great signal from a mic up to the bottleneck. On the other side of the bottleneck, there is nothing that can be done top get the quality back. Its gone lost forever.
You want to start with the highest quality possible because you will have losses mixing. Every virtual effect you use mixing in the daw will rob the file of bits of data to get that desired effect so you want to capture the best to begin with. When you down sample and change the wave file back to analog there are major losses of sound quality. Converting a wave file to an MP is obvious to most who have good ears and can hear the lossy effects on the high end frequencies.
If you start with a crappy $12 mic in a recording chain that has a frequency response of 200 to 10Khz, it doesn't matter how good your interface preamps computer DAW program, plugins or monitors are. The mic cannot capture the higher frequencies in the air and there is no electronic magic that will make the mic work better. It's diaphragm has physical deficiencies and it wont produce the higher frequencies to reproduce sounds from say drum cymbals so all you'll hear is a megaphone tone mixing.
On the other hand, if you have a great $5000 Neumann mic and a $5000 Great Rivers preamp plugged into a windows sound card, again, it doesn't matter how good the front end signal is. The poor quality sound card with $2 worth of chips will bottleneck the signal down and strip it of its sonic qualities.
Then again, if you have everything good up to and through a decent interface and actually capture great data, you have the mixing/ playback side to consider. If you have great tracks recorded and pump the playback through cheezy computer monitors that are hyped to sound bigger than they are and maybe have a response of 200~12Khz there's no way you can get a good mix from great tracks. You have to hear the tracks play back accurately with an ultra flat response from 20~20Khz with no hills or valleys so when you do EQ something to fit in a mix, those changes are accurate 1:1. Then if you play back the mix of a hundred cheap audio systems it will sound as good as any other commercial recording on those systems.
As I said, you don't have to go overboard spending money in the beginning. You can spend $50 on an interface, $200 on monitors, and Buy a couple of decent mics for around $100 each and do some amazing work. Just keep in mind the gear and software is only the tip of the iceberg that can be seen above the water. 90% of what it takes to get a good recording is submerged. Beginners only see the gear. Its what they don't see that can take decades to acquire, which is knowledge and experience.
08-30-2013 11:31 AM
Never build your own studio to save money on making a record.
Renting time at a pro studio is cheaper.
Build your own studio because you want to learn the art of recording.
08-31-2013 12:12 PM
I wouldn't use my sound card. You want an interface with some decent pre amps on it. You don't even need a mixer if you get an interface with a lot of pre amps on it. For example my interface has 20 in and 20 out. I don't have a mixer. All I have to do is use the mixer on the screen the DAW. In the old day's, you'd need a mixer, and then the mixer into the interface or sound card. But now you can get an interface that is basically a mixer without the sliders. It will have the knobs to turn the pre amps up and down. It'll have inputs for outboard gear with no pre amp. It'll have phantom power for every pre amp.
Mine also has a virtual mixer aside from the DAW that saffire provides. This allows for no latency what so ever and for people to have different mix's going on at the same time in different head phones.
What I discovered when I got my studio monitor's, it sounded way better to go with the very flat M-Audio one's that didn't have much bass and get a subwoofer rather than get the one's that had a lot of bass to them and no subwoofer. So I have a 2.1 set up. The subwoofer is turned all the way down almost and it still shakes the whole house when the bass guitar is going.
The DAW doesn't matter as much these day's. They all do the same thing basically. The main difference is, what the DAW comes with. For example, if you're an apple guy, Logic doesn't cost much and it comes with all types of midi instruments and samples, drumsets, synths, piano's, etc. All high quality, they don't sound like the toy plug ins that some of the cheaper DAW's come with.
Pro Tools, they like to limit you a lot. They dictate when new technology can be used with it, at one time people could not even use certain hard drive's with it because it didn't support it. Logic doesn't care what you use.
Pro Tool's also doesn't really come with anything. The plug ins are limited. It comes with the basics. So, if you get into needing more plug in's, you're gonna spend thousands of dollars trying to find the right reverb plug in suite, the right piano synth suite, etc. Where as logic, the only plug in I had to buy was superior drummer.
Pro Tool's is still the standard. But I see a lot of big artist now recording on Logic instead. Some of them record on Logic and import into pro tools. A lot of time's they do this because they are working with bigger studio's and want it all in the pro tool session. Or they want to use all the cool midi stuff in Logic, and then record the audio in pro tools.
Used to that made more sense. Now Logic has the audio part down really well. I wouldn't import it to pro tools.
You also don't have to spend the kind of money you used to have to spend on mic's anymore. If you learn what you're doing in the recording program and hook up with a company who does cheap mixing and mastering, you won't really hear the difference in a Rode NT1000 and some of the much more expensive mic's.
You just don't want cheap mic's. Rode is one of those companies that make's affordable mic's that sound like the expensive one's.
For guitar, I use the e906 and the Sm57. The e906 is better for me because it sounds exactly like it sounds in the room. The Sm57 doesn't. But some people like that. Or you can record guitar direct. Which I also do. You can do that from amp's or you can use amplitube as a plug in, guitar rig, an axe fx, 1101, hd 500. Anything.
Get an external hard drive. Or if you're using a tower put another hard drive in there.
It's all fairly simple until you get to the drums. If you don't understand how to use a compressor for example, get one of these cheap online companies to mix and master your songs and they will open up the file in the DAW and they will compress the vocals right and the drums, and make it sound better than you usually can.
I have an outboard compressor that is a great compressor but I still prefer the plug in's because I can mess with it easier.
But while you're learning, as long as you got a solid clear recording, and nothing is clipping, you can pay one of these companies to make it sound as good as it gets. Some of them only charge 25 dollars a song. And the quality is outstanding. I got links if you need them to a few people who mix and master for very cheap. And they have examples on their website of before and after. They also will give you a free sample of half a song free of charge.
That is what I do. Although I can record everything well and my recordings are clear and sound very good. I still am not perfect at adding compression to drums, making sure the vocals are on point with the compression.
So, I record everything myself and let someone else at a low price make it sound oustanding. Although I don't do that with everything I record. Just the EP's I put out that people actually hear. I also put them on Vinyl so they have to be mastered another way to go on Vinyl which cost an extra 22 bucks a song where I go.
The reason I said all of that is because, when you're new to recording you might be recording everything right but it might take you a while to understand how to get it to sound like other recordings you hear. I've been doing it a little while. I can get it real close. But still not as good as the people who sit there and mix and master all day long.
Keep in mind, most famous artist you know who have their own recording studio, do the same thing most of the time. They will add their compression and they will mix it and get it the best they can and then they send it somewhere else and someone else usually mix's it and then someone masters it.
This is way cheaper than going to a studio and letting them record it for you.
I also release my mix of the song with no mastering if it's not on an official Ep from the band I'm in. It will cost you more to get it mixed and mastered if you want pitch correction and all of that. I do not do that. I like the flaws in there. No notes get corrected. So they don't have to do much for me. They barely have to mix it, they might mess with the compression and the reverb on the vocals some. And then they master it.
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